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Liquor license request put on hold for 2 months


The Columbia Association suffered more woe last night in connection with its Fairway Hills golf course.

The County Council, sitting as the Liquor Board, put the association's liquor license request on hold for at least two months. The association had hoped to have the license in time for the Sept. 2 opening of the course.

The action is not much consolation to nearby Running Brook residents who complained to the Liquor Board last week about the association's plans to use mobile carts to sell beer to golfers playing the course.

Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray of east Columbia told association representatives last night that they can use special liquor licenses granted for one day only while waiting for a permanent liquor license. The one-day licenses -- no more than 12 of which can be granted to the same group within a year -- would allow the association to sell beer anywhere on the course.

The unanimous action of the board to "keep the case open" allows the association to present its case again Oct. 10.

The October hearing is a reprieve -- a chance for the association to improve on what Councilman Charles C. Feaga of West Friendship last night called "the poorest prepared case we ever heard at a Liquor Board hearing."

Had the board denied the license outright, the Columbia Association would not have been able to apply again for a year.

Board members said that part of the "poor case" is that the association doesn't know what kind of liquor license it wants.

Last week, association representatives said they wanted a restaurant license. But opponents pointed out that they had applied instead for a tavern license. The difference is that a restaurant serves more food than liquor and a tavern serves more liquor than food.

Association representatives say they expect to sell more food than liquor but cannot request a restaurant license without having a health department-approved kitchen. Their health department license requires that cooked food be prepared elsewhere.

Mr. Gray suggested the association consider applying for a license available to private clubs. He also suggested the association determine before October what restrictions, if any, it will place on the sale of alcohol -- especially on those parts of the course bordering homes on Ten Mills Road and Whetstone Road.

Whetstone Road resident Ginger Scott told the board last week that occasional stray golf shots associated with normal play are threatening enough without "the additional hazard of beer-guzzling golfers."

Driving and drinking don't mix, she told the board, "and that goes for driving golf balls and driving golf carts too."

Robert D. Bellamy, director of operations and membership services at the Columbia Association, said it is likely the association will use some but not all of its quota of 12 one-day licenses while awaiting a permanent license.

He put a brave face on last night's Liquor Board action, saying the Sept. 2 opening of the first nine holes of the 204-acre course "will be a little less smooth" than he had hoped.

"Less smooth" could be the alias for a course that has been a headache for the Columbia Association since its inception.

After running into financial problems in 1987, the association sought to have the county government take over all or some of the project, and make it a jointly run public course. But the county wasn't buying, and CA shelved the $5.2 million project temporarily. The county recently began construction of a $10.5 million course of its own.

When the association revived the Fairway Hills idea as a replacement for the Allview course the association closed in 1985, newer residents tended to favor the idea and older ones tended to oppose it.

Those opponents recently accused CA of acting "secretly" without county approval to use old Allview course tees that are closer to their homes than the ones designated in the Fairway Hills plans filed with the county planning office.

The mistrust continues.

"Dr. Gray gave [the liquor license request] a lot of thought, but I don't think CA wants the general public to know what they want to do on Fairway Hills," Ms. Scott's husband, Thomas, said last night after hearing the board's decision.

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